The title apparently translates to “Stomiiformes”, which is, according to Google, “an order of deep-sea ray-finned fishes”. This is the fourth series I’ve read of this author, after “Saltiness”, “Ciguatera” and “Himizu”. Furuya has become my third favorite author after Shūzō Oshimi and Inio Asano, and this series is my third most favorite of his.
The tale follows a thirty-two-year-old ugly loner who has been working the night shift as a security guard at a supermarket for seven years. A single event defined his youth: during a class in which the students were ordered to hold hands, everybody made a point of avoiding to hold the protagonist’s. Afterward the teacher berated his classmates for being so hurtful, but some girls rebelled and yelled that they didn’t want to hold his hand because he was gross and creepy. As soon as the protagonist became an adult, he went out of his way to avoid people and live as quietly as possible. However, we are introduced to him the moment he fears that he’s missing out, that he’s letting his life pass by. He has made a habit of going to the roof of the building at which he works, getting undressed to his underwear and running laps, but that night, as his anxiety grows, he makes a childish wish to the universe: for someone to become his friend.
Recently he had noticed that someone was spying on him from the shadows of a nearby apartment building as the protagonist ran laps on the roof. On top of that, some sneaky bastard starts leaving notes to him that state that the protagonist is about to go crazy and die before the end of the year. So far the only positive development in his life is that he meets his next door neighbor, who is a beautiful, tall, big-breasted young woman who aspires to become a published writer.
This story contains all the elements of a classic Minoru Furuya tale: an outcast protagonist who has trouble relating to people properly and who experiences intrusive thoughts; some of such thoughts are incarnated into creatures (humans and wild animals in this series, otherworldly “demons” in the other stories); silly humor; unpredictable behaviors; hardcore sequences that should have traumatized the involved characters but that end up having few lasting consequences; secondary characters that impact the protagonist as they play their role, but that then disappear forever; and the sense that by opening yourself up to others or even interacting with them, you are courting disaster.
Through the protagonist we meet a homeless gambler who’s running from the Yakuza; a wired young man who is in love with (and stalks) a dangerous woman; a pea-brained, big-dicked security guard who dreams of becoming rich and popular; a sociopathic hikikomori who murdered his depressive, alcoholic father; a possibly schizoid security guard who has never opened up to others and that if he does he risks finding out the extent of how fucked up he is; a gang of thugs who steal cars; an aging pleasure seeker who’s looking for a way to break up with her murderous Yakuza lover, etc. In the middle of it all, our unfortunate protagonist attempts in his fumbling way to improve other people’s circumstances, even to his detriment.
Most fiction writers, men and women, tend to dump plenty of their own flaws into their protagonists, then they also create romantic interests for those protagonists that in real life wouldn’t even deign to look at them. It rarely bothers me; after all, real life is shit and we ought to escape from it as often as possible. However, I had a especially hard time believing that a beautiful, tall, big-breasted aspiring writer would be interested in this story’s protagonist, who is ugly, unkempt, lacks any interesting hobbies or talents, has few social skills, works a dead-end job, and has never even kissed a girl. I did, however, like the character of that aspiring writer (who does very little actual writing in the story) although I couldn’t believe in most of her motivations. Her relationship with the protagonist becomes the spine of this story right up to the end, so if you can’t buy into it, you may have an issue with this series.
I have come to this story after I finished reading Furuya’s “Himizu”, a mostly serious work in which the author seemed like he was restraining himself from breaking into silliness. I much prefer the demented interactions between his characters that somewhat often end up involving sexual references and/or exhibitionism.
I’ve felt a kinship with this author ever since I started reading “Saltiness”, that remains my favorite series of his. In this story I’m reviewing, the author comments through his protagonist that he feels that his brain lacks something that would allow him to relate to other human beings as it seemingly comes easily to most other people, so naturally I suspect that he may also be autistic and in addition have OCD due to how often he depicts intrusive thoughts in his protagonists, who are often arguing with mental ghosts. So if you want to experience what a nightmare existing in such brains can be, I guess you could do much worse than going through this author’s works.